Faces of Small Business: Kelly’s Four Plus Granola

We sat down with Nate and Will Kelly, Co-Founders of Kelly’s Four Plus Granola located in Norwalk CT. We talked about the joys of working in a small family owned business, what it’s like to start a granola company, and where things are headed for Kelly’s; and what it’s like to be a young leader.

Here’s the full show transcript.

Robyn: So, today we have will and Nate from Kelly’s Four Plus Granola, local Connecticut company Norwalk, basically right around the corner from our office, which is awesome. And now our office is full of granola. So that’s always a plus, I bring it home. Don’t tell anyone or tell everyone. It’s the favorite, it’s the best.

Nate: Just found out.

Robyn: Yeah. So, can you guys tell me a little bit about Kelly’s?

Will: Sure. So Kelly’s Four Plus Granola is our family granola company. I’m Will Kelly and Nate’s here with me, and we started the business back in 2012 with our parents. And it was granola that our mom was making for Nate and I. We were competitive rowers, and we were looking for a healthy snack for training. And we asked her to make granola basically using ingredients that we already were eating kind of on our own. So, the original recipe was oats, canola oil, honey, maple syrup, and then a couple different nuts. And she’d make it for us, we would tell her, you know, maybe more honey, more nuts, use almonds, don’t use pistachios, whatever it was. And she sort of refined the recipe for that. And do want to kind of talk about the–

Nate: Yeah. You know, here in Norwalk, there’s actually pretty big river. And so that’s both where Will and I learned how to row in high school, came back and did some rowing through college with the program. And then after college, we decided that we both want to train for the Senior National Olympic team. And as our mom was making this granola at home, we decided to bring that down to the high school team that were coaching on the side of our training, and I took it to a Regatta in the fall of 2011. And after the race, the bins were completely empty. And I think we had a batch of nutty and then my mom, Cordy, said let’s do a non nut flavor. So, she basically came up with the honey maple. The bins were empty at the end of the race. And the parents all said, you know, whose granola is this? Coach Nate. And so the following week or two weeks later, I brought another two bins there, one nutty, one honey maple, and at the end of the Regatta, there was a an order sheet for crew crunch. And so I brought the sheet home, and I said mom, we got 25 bags to make and sell to the kids. So, we started selling to them at the boathouse. We’re doing that for about six months, and they do a fundraiser every spring and fall.

So, we tacked on to that with our granola bags and they sold I think in the first fundraiser like 801 pound bags, which we were blown away by. We were expecting maybe 200. And as those 800 went out, it wasn’t just to the crew members anymore, it was to friends and family and other people in this for the immediate Fairfield County area. And then we started having getting requests so you know, this is nice that I can buy this through my son or daughter or their friends through school. Another thing actually the kids were doing, they were buying 10 or 12 bags from us at a time from the boathouse after practice, and then selling it to their friends for $1 extra at school. So, it just started spreading out there and we got all these questions you know, where can we buy it. So, we start with the farmers market in the summer of 2012 all local, of course, with Wilton and Rowayton and as those were successful we decided those are you know, only have summer/fall kind of season. We need full time grocery stores to sell our products. So, we’re able to take what we learned in those farmers markets and bring them to a couple local grocery stores. And once those starting to get more and more successful, we added on more and more stores to here we are today.

Robyn: That’s awesome.

Nate: So, it’s the basic startup story.

Robyn: Are you guys still selling at Farmers Markets?

Will: We do we still do. The New Canaan Farmers Market and we’re trying to figure out if we’re going to do Rowayton or not, but they’re definitely, they’re great places to test new items with customers, get direct customer feedback. So, I always say for food companies, if you can, definitely try and start with some farmers markets, even if you’re also ready to go to grocery stores do that. But farmers markets give you the direct feedback from customers that is hard to get doing a demo in a grocery store or just having your product sit on a shelf or in a cooler or freezer in a grocery store. So, it’s given us even over six years, a lot of ability to test different things. And even if we’re just selling the six normal skews of granola in a bag, you see the regular customers come back over and over again and say, no matter what I will be a Four Plus fan for the rest of my life. It’s better than any product and just nice to hear that reassurance every once in a while.

Robyn: That’s exactly how I felt trying your granola for the first time. Because you go, you guys know, you go to the grocery store and it’s like a whole aisle dedicated to granola and it’s pretty much hit or miss and you don’t necessarily know what’s in it. So, it was great trying your granola and being able to just kind of stock my whole office here with granola and everybody loves it. And I give it to my clients and tell everybody to try it. So that’s great.

Nate: Thank you. Thanks.

Robyn: So, you guys are a family business?

WIll: Yeah.

Robyn: How’s that?

Nate: It’s exciting. We both love it, I think and we get the question every once while, how do you work with your brother and your work with your parents? But I think we have joke about this, but we all sort of fell into our roles sort of naturally. We we never really had to, you know, fight for Will’s position of, you know, Chief Operating Officer, or he wasn’t, you know, chomping at the bit to get on the road and go make sales like I do. And, and our mom Cordy loves to, you know, experiment with different recipes and baking and she loves sort of mastering her recipes and refining them. And then our dad who is involved as well, sort of, you know, and say 30% of the time in an advisory role, just loves the gritty nature of startups and building something, and, you know, doing deals and things like that. And so he’s been able to help us start this thing from the ground and grow to where we are today. But also, look at the future of how do we want this to be, you know, much larger company, still with our family roots and in small story startup.

Will: Yeah, I joke with my friends, because they all asked me how I can work with my family. And I hear stories about their co-workers. And I don’t know how you work with strangers, basically. Because we don’t, we don’t really butt heads, but if there are issues, we’ve been dealing with each other for almost 30 years now. And so I know how to talk to my family, honestly, without it being confrontational. So, there’s no secrets, there’s no workplace politics, and I think it works out.

Robyn: Great. That’s great. So how many employees do you guys actually have?

Will: So, we got the four of us who started it in the family, and then actually my dad’s brother is with us as well. So, he has a background as a chef in a restaurant. He started coming down to help us, probably four years ago now, maybe a little bit more. Like once or twice a week, he was up in Saratoga, New York, and he just kind of wanted to show us how to run a real commercial kitchen. And we just kept meeting him more and more. And eventually, he moved out here and he’s with us full time. So, that makes five and we have three employees that we hired in the last year and a half or so to work in the kitchen with us.

Nate: We use some, some contract workers for some merchandising services and stuff, but yeah, the full time employees that work here in Norwalk are eight.

Robyn: So, can you guys tell me about yourself?

Nate: Well, it’s funny. I’ll start, Will’s background is going to sound shockingly familiar to mine even though we do completely different things. We both you know, grew up in New Canaan. So we know this area, started rowing in high school and that definitely took over a lot of my life and directed where I went off to college to keep rowing that was up at Trinity in Hartford. graduated with a degree in Political Science concentration in international relations, has nothing to do with sales and granola and dating but you know, the you heard the background of how we got started. And I think the benefit of the liberal arts education helped us sort of morph what we learned in different projects and classes; taking those skills of learning something entirely new and now they’re writing a paper about it or conducting a project with other students into building this business and figuring out as we’ve gone along.

But my role in the business is sort of Chief Revenue Officer. I go out and I manage all the sales, new business, existing business, distributors. I definitely have a hand in product formulation as we try and expand our skews and our offerings. But primarily, I’m on the road every day calling on existing stores picking up new ones. As we get on big batches of stores, figuring out how to manage that new business, executing our promotions, doing demos and events on the weekends. You know, there’s a lot of regular work that has to happen Monday through Friday, and then on Saturday and Sunday, when all the, you know, regular nine to fivers are out shopping and enjoying these events. That’s when we’re out there trying to reach those customers. And so I have previously spent a lot of time in grocery stores. I’m trying to manage that schedule a little bit more now for the future. But it’s very much a big part of my role and what I see in day to day.

Will: Yeah, so very similar story, I guess. I also started growing in high school at St. Luke’s in New Canaan, and followed me to Trinity, where I row as well. And I settled on the same major Political Science, same focus, same advisor. Yeah, it was rolling with pretty much my life for six or seven years and leaving college my goal was to make it to the Olympics. And I found that it was something that, training effort was something that I was no longer really passionate enough about. I was very passionate about it, but I was at a I guess you could call it a pre Olympic Training Camp and found that the guys there were just kind of on a different level than I was. So, I kind of took a step back and sort of reevaluated that part of my life, I guess. And at the same time I happened to hurt myself, which made the decision very easy to step back from rowing. And I thought a lot about kind of, you know, what I enjoyed about rowing and that kind of led me to diving into Four Plus, with Nate and the family.

And Nate mentioned the sort of liberal arts education and what that taught us and how to be good problem solvers and lateral thinkers. And I guess that’s sort of what I really enjoyed about the business was being able to solve problems every day, kind of see new things, learn new things. And for Nate, it kind of led him to be on the road and selling granola. And for me, it kind of led to sitting in the office and figuring out everything that came along with the success that he was having basically.

Will Kelly

Robyn: So Nate, you mentioned working throughout the week, and then doing product demos and things like that on the weekends and I’m sure that you do a lot of that too and not a lot of work life balance in a small or family businesses there.

Nate: No.

Robyn: So, how do you guys kind of manage that?

Nate: There were definitely a few years in there when I was scheduling, quote-unquote “private time” like a weekend off to go travel or take a break or just have something off with my wife. But recently has been more of a shift into understanding and maximizing our efforts instead of just sort of blanketing an area where I say, oh, wow, you know, it’s going to be a high volume shopping day at Whole Foods and Dairy and I gotta go demo. Oh, yeah. Okay, well, we’ll definitely pick up some customers to that and we’ll sell some granola. But I do need to just understand that I can’t go seven days a week because at some point, it’ll definitely burn out. And if you do that for six months in a row, then the efforts on six months on day one are going to be a lot less than what they should be had you taken the brakes leading up to that. Will’s role is little bit more balanced you definitely do put in efforts over the weekends, especially when we get in the farmers market season because that happens at least every other Saturday. And then we’ve got running races that we’re trying to be a part of this year, some cycling races and just other things that come up. But as you know, as any entrepreneur whether it’s a food business or anything else, you definitely have to be just be conscious of scheduling some of your own personal time. And don’t feel ashamed of taking it. You know, you hear the stories of guys in Silicon Valley or coders that are working 20 hour days and going home or sleeping under their desk, in their office and you know, that’s okay, that works for a very small number of people. And sometimes those very small number of people’s grow, you know, billion dollar companies from the efforts that they put in, but it’s not natural for most entrepreneurs.

You absolutely have to work hard and the hours are weird. And the days that you take to work are, you know, more so than just somebody who’s punching the clock at a regular job. But you’re successful, that’s what you have to put in early on, in order to build something.

Nate Kelly

Robyn: That’s great.

WIll: Yeah. And when we started, we were all living under one roof. We were living at home with their parents, save money, we’re keeping all money in the business. So, we work all day then we go home and we talked about it over dinner. And at a certain point, we just decided we need to have, even amongst the four of us and personal time so we made rules about when we can talk about work and when it was personal time. So, I think that we were both living on our own it’s just not even– like having that physical separation helps a lot, at least for me. Yeah, I don’t do as many samplings as Nate so the weekends I can kind of just kind of naturally relax a little bit more. But it’s also just kind of become a mental process of kind of checking out for a few hours whenever we can.

Robyn: I can completely understand the living with parents when you work with them. I worked for my mom and I’ve been here in 12 years. And so obviously when I started I lived at home and it’s hard. You definitely have to think about, you know, separation when you do live together and say, okay, well, we don’t need to talk about what happened with this client today or whatever so I get it. I know you were nervous for this one. If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?

Nate: Do you want me to start?

Will: You go, maybe I’ll get some inspiration.

Nate: I’ll just say passionate. Do you want me to elaborate?

Robyn: Sure.

Nate: Because I’m definitely passionate about our business. For me, it’s easy to go do a demo and my sort of hook for a customer walking by is, “Hey, do you want to taste my mom’s granola?” And people, you know, they do a double take or they’ll be looking at a bag and asked me about it. So yeah, you know, there all my mom’s recipes and blah, blah and they’ll look at me, like “Your mom make this?” So I say, “Yeah.” Sometimes they go “Oh, you’re such a good son, you know, selling your mom’s granola.” I’m like, well, this is actually my full time job too but I’m just passionate about it, not passionate about granola or food in general. But I’m passionate about the fact that I know Will is sitting back in the office at his desk, you know, grinding away trying to figure out you know, how do we make our efforts to the best of their ability. My mom and uncle are in the kitchen, you know, making granola The guys are in the kitchen, making and packing the granola. And our dad is worried about, okay, how do we, you know, put the next distributor together or, you know, how do we get these other skews out there. And so, you know, there are many different ways that you can produce a food product. The fact that we’re producing it and I’m directly connected to that keeps me you know, driving forward on it. Then outside of the food business, you know, rowing is something that I started in 2002 and just have not given up since then. I’ve said it had some ups and downs in the last six years starting the business and the hours I have to put into that. So, I haven’t always been getting up to a practice or race on weekends. But it’s something that keeps me so directly focused and centered as an outlet from work, and that part of your life, that it’s something I will never, ever give up. I want to keep that in my life and I’m very passionate about that. So does that help?

Will: Yeah, I mean, I think I’m passionate as well but I’m not as outwardly passionate I guess is you are, which is why you are obviously the salesman, I’m not. So, I think with that in mind, I consider myself more maybe thoughtful. I think I internalize a lot of the work I do and I try to think about it and before making decisions. And I think that kind of lends itself well to my role of being in the office and working through a lot of the operating, I wouldn’t say problems, which is sort of the day to day operating job. Yeah. And then tying into rowing, I always loved rowing and now I run. I love both of those things because it kind of lets me get into my head and sort of sift through things and I don’t know.

Nate: What, you said about running, what you like about it, and you don’t listen to music or podcasts at some point but now I guess you listen to podcasts more recently. But you liked it because you could just sort of think and process things throughout the day and not have to concentrate on anything else.

WIll: Yeah, but even with music and podcasts in the background, it’s very much in the background. I’ll finish around and I’ll realize I didn’t hear anything for the last half hour because it just kind of staying in my head.

Robyn: Well, the next question is what are you into outside of work, outside of a lot of cardio, what else are you guys doing?

Will: I mentioned running. I’ve been trying to do more races and see I’ve got a nice ankle brace on right now from running. I like hiking as well. My girlfriend and I try to find new places to go hike on the weekend, especially now that it’s getting warm. But outside of that I’ve been getting into making bread recently. So, I like to bake bread and it’s been a good escape as well. It’s food related, but it’s it’s just a passion. And my parents asked me recently about what it would take to start selling bread if I made it and I just said, nope, sorry, it’s going to be a hobby and nothing else. So, I try, I haven’t done it that much recently, but for a while it was like every weekend I try to make some sort of bread.

Robyn: Like a different, do you try to master like one type of bread and move on to the next or every weekend you’re like, I’m going to try this different kind of and then this one and that one?

Will: So, it started with basically what you call country, like a country local bread, and it’s just very simple. The ingredients are just flour, water salt in yeast. And it was something I tried because a friend of mine made a really good loaf of bread for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. And it’s something and just like I clicked like, I would love to try making that. And so I got into that and I loved just to kind of simple process of combining these really basic ingredients. A good recipe might take 48 hours from start to finish. And there’s something I loved about putting work in the recipe on a Saturday morning and not seeing the result and seeing the impact of what the specific things you did, not seeing them until Sunday evening, basically. So, it started with that and I branched out a little bit. I mean, bagels croissants, I made soda bread a couple weeks ago for St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s been pretty like kind of tight in that world. I’m not branching out too far. But it’s all like kind of around the same idea of just kind of different little tweaks to make and seeing how big of a difference that it can make in the final product.

Nate: My wife has asked me why I’m not into making bread. So, no, that’s Will’s thing. I’m not gonna do that. We have a dog who takes up a lot of our time, just in the nightly routines of having to take her out. But the nice thing about having her has actually, it’s kept me you know, more conscious of my schedule over the weekend. [??? 21:32] be able to go take her out to a new park or a new hike or you know, doing something with other friends that have dogs. It’s kind of cliche, but it’s, you know, one of those things is just help keep us a little more centered to home and together as a couple and it’s been nice addition to to the family. But also, I have a motorcycle and so that helps get me out on the road as well. I think part of why I like the sales stuff that I do is I get to drive and explore a lot of different areas. And not just on the highway, like tons of back roads. I mean, I just came from Southbury, Connecticut and I think I was on a highway for 12 minutes of a one hour drive. And I love that because you see parts of, in this case, Connecticut that you just don’t really see and the same thing on the motorcycle, never get on the highway, just back roads and I like explore new areas. Also, I have a podcast with a friend that is at least a weekly activity. We try and get an episode a week out and so we’re recording you know, one or two a week. And that’s a fun outlet to talk about other random things completely, excuse me, separate from work or home life.

Robyn: So, what kind of dog do you have?

Nate: She is a lab terrier mix, but I swear I think she’s 99% terrier. The shelter sold her as a lab mix because they wanted her adopted, but she’s crazy.

Robyn: And what’s her name?

Nate: Rocky. Do you have a dog?

Robyn: I do, I have a pitbull. Yeah, her name is Nana.

Nate: How big she is about 45 pounds.

Robyn: She only comes up to like, maybe my knee, yeah she’s little.

Nate: Pitbulls are great dogs. I don’t know why they get such a bad knock.

Robyn: They do get a bad knock. I think people expect dogs, now this is like an off topic rant, which is fine, expect dogs to act like humans, instead of just respecting the fact that dogs are dogs, and that they have their own personality. So, my dog maybe isn’t the– My dog is a rescue and she’s not necessarily a breed ambassador. But she’s super sweet with people she loves and trust, but she’s obviously mistreated before I got her. But I understand that and so I would never put her in a situation where she might be uncomfortable to react in a certain way that people would be upset about. And I think people put their dogs– tend to put their dogs in situations that people are comfortable with, but dogs may not be and they don’t respect the boundaries.

Nate: Totally agree.

Robyn: Pit bulls, I think just because they’re very strong, and they’re kind of like blocky in their head and they’ve got big teeth and people just assume they’re going to be more aggressive.

Nate: They’re not they’re really loving dogs, one of the best family home dogs to have.

Robyn: Yeah. She’s cute. I can’t complain. But she definitely takes me out. So, like on the weekends, I’m always conscious about like, oh, how long have they been out? I need to go home. We need to go do something with the dog, especially now that it’s nice getting nice out.

Nate: Yeah, the weather changes is a big difference.

Robyn: So, what do you guys hoping to achieve this year? That’s kind of a broad question. So that can be personal and or with Four Plus and you know, what’s happening this year?

Nate: Well, I mean, obviously, on the work front, we want to grow our footprint. You can measure that in a number of different ways. There’s sales, metrics, there are account numbers that we want to achieve. But the reality is the success of the granola business can be achieved just in sort of this geographical area that we’ve currently opened up from, you know, Northern New Jersey, up into Maine. And there’s a lot of accounts that we can infill in this territory alone. So we’d like to try and focus on that density through this year instead of, you know, trying to expand into Ohio or Florida or picking up in these big national chains. There are definitely opportunities to do that. But I think the focus for this year is gonna be how do we just absolutely dominate our backyard? We want to be the top granola in Connecticut for sure. And you know, if you can’t dominate your own hometown and your backyard, then, you know, you don’t want to be a middle player through the rest of the country or this region. But we’ve seen success in this New York, Greater New York metro area, and as we’ve expanded into Boston it’s important that we solidify those accounts and deepen our growth. Outside of work. I’m trying to launch another business, but it’s just kind of like a side project with two friends, one of them who I do the podcast with. It’s like a real estate, drone videography and photography thing, and that was mostly just because I love flying the drone and seeing the aerial images of this area. And so I’m hoping to get that kicked off the ground with these two friends just because there’s a lot of opportunity in this area.

Robyn: Yeah, that can be really interesting…the construction is changing everything.

Nate: Yeah. And you can do a lot of it outside of just real estate. As we’ve been posting things on Instagram, we’ve had Narok code Marina reach out to and say “Hey, we want you to do a promo video for our Marina.” And then just because we shot some some water footage, we had three people that were trying to sell their boats, “Hey, I want you to do a listing for my boat, you know, we’ll go take it out of the water.” Architects one video and photos of their project as it progresses, you talk about construction. And then other events running races here in Norwalk in here. Everybody wants something that’s just a little bit different that helps them stand out. So, it’s one more time suck on the weekend for sure because the Four Plus businesses is definitely the first priority. But it’s something fun to do with friends and just a neat little side project.

Robyn: That’s cool. What about you?

Will: I guess adding to the work side, something our parents told us from the beginning of this business was if you create distribution, you create value. So, we sort of had in our minds all along that once we were into some stores, there’s more we can do there than just sell more bags of our granola. So, we finally feel like we’re at a point where we are comfortable, maybe releasing some new products. So, we’ve been pretty much the last three weeks, most afternoons and evenings been spending time kind of working on new products that we’ve had in the back of our head for a while. And hopefully, in the next few weeks, maybe if we’re lucky we’ll be pushing at least one of them out there. We’ve talked to a few of our local grocers about it, they’re on board. These are things that we’ve already sold a little bit in farmers markets. And so I sort of see this year as a year that we can kind of grow the business not just the footprint, but with new products and kind of more expansion within the source where we currently sit.

Nate: And you’ll be getting samples of that as we get it….

Robyn: Oh, I’m really excited. I’m already thinking about what else can we–

Nate: When we started this, it wasn’t about hitting any trends. You know, especially had we gone to the granola aisle, when we started the business and saw 22 other brands at Whole Foods, we probably would have said no, I think we’ll pass. But we were kind of naive and blind to that and just let our customers sort of demand the expansion into grocery stores. But we make a simple product using simple ingredients. But it just happens to taste really good and it’s low in sugar and just has a lot of health benefits to it. So, if we can figure out how to take those based recipes that Cordy’s come up with and put them into or combined them with some other, you know, maybe functional ingredients and whether that’s a higher protein content or something with probiotics or things that are a little bit more on trend, but aren’t still just trying to capture right in the immediate moment. Although there’s one that’s a little bit more immediate that we’re experimenting with but just something that grows on our base for ingredients that’s still really healthy and good for you, doesn’t have a whole bunch of filler ingredients and things you can’t pronounce. There’s a lot of opportunity for that in these different skews that we’re messing around with right now. So, that’s a good point of trying get those into the stores just outside of our six flavors.

WIll: Yeah, I think we have to because we wrote a blog post recently saying keep an eye out for new products. And I remember hitting publish thinking this will hold us accountable because we talked about it for a while. And there’s various reasons why we didn’t but as soon as we put that out I said, all right, we’re going to have at least you know 7,500 people who read this that’ll say [??? 30:25] you said you’re going to bring out some new products. So, I think we’ll be there in the next few weeks.

Nate: I think we will be. And I’ve told a few of our key grocers that it’s coming and – great, great and give them samples and they’re like, tell us when it’s here and we’ll put on the shelf. I said, okay.

WIll: [??? 30:41] Nate’s done his part, now I’ve got to do mine. Actually, right before I came here, I was working on labels and stuff like that. And when we get back, we’ll be doing that as well. So, we’ve got bags coming next week.

Nate: I’m sick of trying singles though. I’m done.

WIll: We can come bring them over here. Yeah, there’s plenty. We have a filing cabinet in our office and the top of the filing cabinet’s just covered in different iterations of new products. Some of them aren’t editable, probably because they just didn’t turn out well. We couldn’t just throw them away.

Robyn: I totally lost my train of thought. Oh, I was thinking about how you were saying and I said it to that you go into kind of like a whole foods or grocery store and you’re like, oh, 80 different granola. And I think something that people maybe don’t know, I’m a texture person, like 100% and there are some products out there that are really just an odd texture. They’re too crunchy, they’re too– they have like a stale texture or whatever. And I just want to let you guys know that your granola has the best texture and I eat a lot of granola.

WIll: Excellent. And that’s, a lot of people have picked up on that, it’s not too dry, it’s not too crunchy, it’s not too soft and we actually we got into our first grocery store because a customer says it didn’t hurt her teeth. And she pitched that to the owner of the grocery store as the well selling points. I think she even said you have a lot of older customers who will care about this. And he’s looking around the store like, yeah, you’re probably right. But Nate mentioned the farmers market earlier being a good place to get customer feedback. And that is something we heard continuously from people and I think Nate also said, if we had seen the shelf before we started selling, we never would have done it. And so I think we were lucky in that. We didn’t know what we’re doing, we didn’t go out and test the market. We just started selling it and getting the positive feedback and we started hearing about the texture being better than we realize that something that we need to kind of lock in on and make sure people know we’re doing samplings and getting into new markets.

Robyn: It makes me think of you guys met Steve from Northeast Kombucha?

WIll: Yeah.

Robyn: And he has kind of a similar story. Obviously, he’s a little bit further behind than you guys in his startup process, but that he had tried all these kombucha and he’s like, this is terrible. No one would drink this. Then his immediate reaction was, well, let me try to make it. And you know, his kombucha is really good. It’s different than everybody else’s. And so it was just interesting to see how people find other products. And then they’re like, “Oh, well, I can do this better.”

Nate: Yeah. It’s cool if they’re are people out there still doing that and kombucha is definitely of the moment and is having its its high moment, although I think it’ll probably have some good staying power. But it’s just nice to hear that people are still out there doing that, when there are already so many brands out, you know, selling these products, just say, you know what, I’m not happy with any of these and I’m going to make my own. And if enough people like it also then maybe I’ll start sharing more people.

Robyn: And that’s another Norwalk company. Everybody should come to Norwalk.

Nate: Yeah, Norwalk is definitely a bustling food place.

Robyn: It is–

WIll: And there’s plenty of place to live now too.

Robyn: Yes, and we’re gonna have more places to live. Can you guys talk to me about people that have had an impact on you as leaders as you’re running your company?

Nate: Obviously our dad and my mom, yes. You know, mom definitely helps take us this, the leap of faith to get it out there.

WIll: We also knew that she’d be the kind of the burden would be on her once we did start the company to do a lot of the– she’s still makes it every day. So she was very much on us to be serious about it. So, she’s kind of held us accountable.

Nate: But I say dad only because he’s helped direct our scattered thoughts, and also guide us into thinking in the right way of how to approach starting a business and how to grow it. Outside of our day, we’ve actually we’ve had a more recent mentor over the last two years or so, Gary Breitbart, and he – he’s with–

WIll: The Business Council.

Nate:  Okay. And he’s helped us really hone in on what our next steps are, and how do we get this from the smaller level where we are to, you know, 10s of millions of sales and something that’s really competing with the other big guys on the shelf.

WIll: Well, I think on a personal level, you’d probably agree that a lot of the rowing coaches have been good leaders. And to me, when I think about people whose leadership style I want to emulate, it’s people who are direct. They’re not negative, but they tell you what they really think. And if they don’t think you’re doing a good job at something, they’ll tell you that and I’ve had more rowing coach than I can count and there are ones that give you feedback if you’re doing something wrong, and I leave it thinking that person’s a jerk. And then there’s another person who’s saying, delivering the same message but in a different way and I leave there with nothing but respect for them. So, for me, that was always something that I kind of kept in the back of my head where someday I’ll need to use this. And I want to make sure I can kind of emulate what they were doing.

Robyn: I can relate too. I grew up riding horses and competing and now I’m a weightlifter. And my coaches have always been invaluable in teaching me, some of them taught me some bad habits, and then some taught me obviously, how to be strong or, you know, proactive about training or whatever. And a lot of stuff I learned from them crosses over into how I run the company here and what I’m doing and so I absolutely agree that, you know, athletic coaches can be some great assets when you’re younger, to help you grow.

WIll: Yeah, definitely.

Nate: I have a side question.

Robyn: Yeah.

Nate: How does the granola fit into your nutrition and your diet plan for weightlifting? Because it’s, you know, one of those things, it’s not high in protein, it’s you know, it’s a carb which sometimes for strength activity can be, not negative but just not beneficial or an additive, or is it one of those things like you just need calories for the sake of calories?

Robyn: So I usually, well, I’ll be up front that I have a bag of granola in my desk. I have one in my gym bag. So in the middle, I’m eating granola in the middle of a workout just because I love it. Whether that’s good or not, I don’t know. But usually in the morning, I do like yogurt, and then your granola and a banana or some sort of other fruit blueberries or something like that. I tend to do kind of carb heavy breakfast, and then less carbs during the day unless I’m really feeling tired at the gym. And I usually have a protein shake to go with it so I’m making sure I get what I want. But I don’t eat a lot of gluten. I get migraines so the gluten seems to trigger that. So, it’s great that I can eat this product without having to worry about that. And then I actually like the nutty one, so it has all the nuts in it so–

Nate: Yeah, it’s our best seller.

Robyn: It says protein.

Nate: Yeah, the nuts are definitely a little better.

Robyn: Yeah. But I didn’t really like the Cranberry Chocolate.

Nate: Cherry Chocolate?

Robyn: Yes. Thank you. Yes.

Nate: There’s a cranberry nut, although we’ve messed up a few times and it has been cranberry chocolate. Right?

WIll: Yeah we did [??? 38:33] the cranberries and cherries look so similar every once in a while someone puts cherries on cranberry.

Robyn: And they both start with C so it’s difficult. Yeah, actually so at the open house, you guys brought granola and someone, I was like this cherry chocolate is probably one of the best ones that I hear.

Nate: I think it was it wasn’t there.

Robyn: Someone took it.

Nate: It’s addictive. It’s a really killer combination.

Robyn: Yeah, but I put actually put your granola on top of my oatmeal, which is probably like ridiculous– double.

Nate: I do that too. I can’t stand the mushy texture of oatmeal. So I need a little bit of the, you know the bite to it and I’ll put Four Plus into it.

Robyn: Yeah, I’ll put it in anything basically.

Nate: Yeah. Interesting then you’re one of our ideal customer because we do say with these little snack packs every once while, have it in your gym bag while you’re working out and you know, Will and I will put them in the back of our bike jerseys as we’re out on the road, or if it seals, well I have it in my rowing boat, you know, it’s not going to get wet or spoil or anything. But for those longer workouts, it’s definitely you know, it’s not something that’s weighing you down or one of those gels. It’s just really sweet, sticky. You just get a couple pinches of that. And that actually does a good job of holding you over.

Robyn: Yeah, I completely agree. I think it’s funny. So, I am a strong woman and powerlifter, but I trained in a CrossFit gym. And so my CrossFit gym is full of really amazing athletes. So I’m not like shitting on them, but they’re all pretty young, the ones that are trying to you know, go to the games and stuff. And they’ll eat like gummy worms and energy drinks in their workout. Like I just can’t like I’m over 30 like, I can’t do that. That’s just not going to work. So the granola is a great just mid workout push. And it’s not, you can’t really bring like a banana to the gym. Right? What are you going to do with it? Nothing to see here. So I know that I would be a terrible regular employee somewhere else, even though my mom has told me several times that that’s not true. But I think she’s biased. If you guys had to find a job outside of Four Plus, what would you do?

Nate: I’ll be honest, I do think about that quite often. Not because I want to leave the company or you know, I’m hoping that this ends soon, but because I’m kind of spoiled when I get to go sort of quote unquote, set my own hours and drive around where I want to drive around and go see the places I want to see. Obviously, they’re directed by work, but I do think about that, like I’d be a terrible right now. Like some boss was hounding me because I was in 8:05 or 9:05 instead of, you know, on the dot that, wouldn’t work for me structured, you know, lunch hours and stuff like that even though we have that for some of our employees at the kitchen. I would definitely not fit into that role either. So, I don’t know. If it’s something in sales. I love that because, you know, the interaction with clients and customers it’s fascinating to me and talking to people and working with them either through their issues are their growth strategies or frankly, I mean, what little I know about strategies leaders, but just in the open house and talking to Andy and talking to you, and poking around your website even more, that seems like a much more interesting avenue of business to go into. And you say it’s funny, you would be a terrible regular employee. In my mind, it’s like, well, no, this is an office setting and like, aren’t you are just a regular employee. But no, you get your hands involved in a lot of different businesses and get to talk to a lot of different business leaders and employees of other companies. And I think that’s more interesting than just being on you know, one rail and one channel of trying to grow something. I imagine you’re probably the same way, although you might go into something a little more institutional.

WIll: I mean, I think about it sometimes as well. And whenever this ends, however, it ends like we obviously, have to move on to something else. And I think I’ve come to the realization that I would love to stay in the food and beverage industry. I mean, there’s security in the sense that people are always going be, you know, the industry’s not going anywhere. It’s obviously going to change, but I think we’ve got really great kind of hands on grassroots experience that could be taken to another company or some tangential industry. And it’s interesting, I think it’s it’s fascinating seeing the trends of what people are eating, and it’s very tangible where you can talk to anyone about it. And even though they don’t know the specifics of what you’re doing, it’s relatable. So, you can always kind of hold a conversation with someone. I like that. I think I would actually make a very good regular employee. Yeah, I think I actually respond well, to a little bit more structure.

 Robyn: Okay. That’s why you’re in the operations.

WIll: Exactly, yeah.

Nate: But you want to be a higher up like you don’t want to be an associate.

WIll: No, but you know, you do well at the other levels [??? 43:44] hire, not C suite, but I think going back to the rowing and what it helped with, rowing is very, there’s a lot of individual work. You’re training on your own lot of the time, especially if you want to be very good. You’re doing a lot of indoor rowing on the rowing machine or just strength training. And it’s very much an individual effort. But in a boat, it’s described as the ultimate team sport. So, I think that’s very conducive to a large work environment where you’re physically sitting at a desk doing all of your own work, but it’s within the context of a bigger team. And that’s something I always loved about rowing. And I think I would enjoy in a big environment, is kind of taking my contributions and adding it to a larger effort and seeing how they all kind of gel together. So, I guess we’re different in that sense.

Nate: We have very similar paths to where we’ve gotten to today, but our roles are entirely different, our interests are different.

Robyn: To your point, for me personally, like we do, we are an office. Obviously, this is an office setting, but if someone was here like, okay, it’s 9:30, and you’re not here, that would never work, if I don’t. So, obviously, when you work with a parent who is your boss, your communication is a little different than if it was just like Mr. Smith, your boss and to not be able to have that open communication with a superior would just, I would quit for sure. I wouldn’t be able to deal with you. And I obviously have a lot of friends who work regular nine to five, they clock in and out. They don’t work on the weekends, you know, they don’t even think about work on the weekend. So I’m like, I don’t know how you do that, but I can’t do that. So, I would make a terrible employee.

Nate: The salary, you know, you can probably unplug on Saturday, Sunday.

Robyn: That’s true.

WIll: It’s kind of a relief, though. A couple years ago, I was actually working at a restaurant just part-time and it really struck me how different it is when it’s not your company or it’s not something that takes up a lot of your time. I walked in there one day, and I hadn’t been working for four or five days and there had been a fire in the restaurant. And I had no idea. And I was like, “Well, what happened?” Oh, there’s a fire in the kitchen and it’s like is everything’s fine? Like yeah, it’s fine now. And so I left the restaurant one day, the next day there’s a fire. Four days later, I come back and everything in my world is the same. Like nothing has changed. And I thought in that moment, I’m glad it was okay. I’m glad the restaurants fine. And it is so nice that something like that can happen and it just has no effect on me. Obviously, it’s great to take ownership and like see that there’s a lot of great things that go along with that, but sometimes it’s nice when it’s just not your problem, basically.

Robyn: I can understand that. I personally believe that life is all about education, right? You’re always learning new things, things are being thrown at you, you have to learn how to adapt and change. How do you guys best learn new things when you have to learn something?

WIll: I try to be hands on. I know I said I was thoughtful before. I think I do. I try to think through a lot of problems in my head. But ultimately, I don’t really get something right until I do it and I think that’s also why I like bread and making bread is that it’s very hands on and like, physically using my hands to kind of work through a problem. It’s very beneficial to me so whether it’s these new products that we’re developing or selling on Amazon, I just like to kind of collect the information we need and then just try things and if it doesn’t work, go back and try something else. And just be mindful of the process and kind of what’s going well, what’s not, and just kind of like doing new iterations that way.

Nate: Yeah, being hands on is a great way to explain that is you know, talking about the new skews and new items. If you know, there’s the formulation issue, and then what the product is actually going to be, but simultaneously as we’re doing that in the kitchen, I’m also into our grocery stores and talking to the owners and grocery manager saying, okay, what kind of products do you guys have that similar to this? What’s the price point? You know, where is it displayed? Is it in the same aisle as our granola or is it in a different aisle, nutrition bar, cookies, or is it frozen? Is it dairy? Where do you guys show this stuff? And if I’m going to produce this, would you give us you know, this space, you know what, you know, what kind of flexibility to do I have, so that instead of just sort of creating it in the secrecy of our kitchen, and then going to the grocery say, “Hey, we have this product, look, it’s perfect. It’s great.” They said, “Well, actually, it doesn’t fit on the shelf where we would then display it.” Okay, we did all that work without actually doing the hands on, you know, groundwork research. But I mean, we still, you can Google, tons of different questions and there’s tons of information out there that we have found, as you know, a relatively small successful food company. There some basic things that we don’t know whether it’s an acronym or something promotion related or discount related, you know, just trying to get that information, you’d be surprised that actually what is available to entrepreneurs and food companies especially. And then this network of other companies that we’ve tapped into, whether it’s through the Chamber of Commerce or it’s through Norway or it’s through a couple of other things, meeting these companies at farmers markets or other small businesses, distributing to grocery stores, you start to see each other on a regular basis, tapping that network and asking them questions. Because sometimes, somebody who’s experienced a problem that you were just coming up on, found the right solution and are able to talk you through it. So, it’s definitely not a textbook, you know, straight narrow, figure out a problem, you know, two plus two, sort of, but that’s part of, I think, that’s what’s fun about having this kind of a business is experiencing issues problems or different things that come up and figuring out the best way to to get to the solution.

Robyn: What are some of the core values that you guys have at Four Plus?

WIll: I think family’s a big one, obviously, more than half of us in the business are part of the family. But whether it’s explicitly stated or not, we’ve tried to hold our other employees kind of to the same standards that we hold of ourselves, but also treat them the same way we treat one another which is as a family. And I guess I’ll speak from sort of the operation side and you can sort of speak from the sales and product side. But within the kitchen, I’ve noticed that we try to give our employees some of the flexibility that we give one another. So, if someone needs a last minute day off or they’re taking a longer vacation or whatever it is, we’ve always been very open access. of each other’s schedules as a family. So, we try to extend that to them at the same time, like, I think we can be kind of harder on our employees and kind of expect the same things that we expect of one another. I know I’m very hard on scheduling mentioned, people coming in late, and stuff like that. I might be a little too hard, but you know, we do it to one another. I think the first time someone ever told me, I need to keep regular hours was [??? 51:37] probably four or five years ago, I kind of – in between eight and nine. And you said something about just being at eight or something like that. So now, maybe it’s eight o’clock, you kind of have to be there and I hold our employees to that. So, I think family is part of how we got started. And I think it’s sort of part of our identity at this point, and we try to extend that to everybody.

Nate: Yeah, I would agree with that. Because the family story is on our bag. It’s on our website. The story of how we got started is very much part of our image. Our name is on the bag, especially when we’re out there doing a lot of these sales efforts, it’s very family powered. But I think the other big key to what we do, you know, first of all, for people that don’t know the food world, you can make your own product in your own commercial kitchen and completely control that end of the manufacturing, we can go out and get a co-packer, somebody else to make your product for you. And that’s definitely something we looked at in the past and still continue to look at maybe for other items down the road. But we’ve made the full and conscious decision that we want to be controlling our manufacturing process certainly on the granola front, and you know for a number of different reasons. But mainly because we are committed to using simple, natural ingredients and you can basically finding your pantry. Our mom came up with the recipe because she went into the closet and said I’ve got oats, canola oil, honey, maple syrup, and then pecans, walnuts and almonds and that’s what you know, my husband, John like. And she is basically stuck to that, you know, those four core ingredients, and then just add a few extra different things in it. So on, you know, the sales front and when I’m going to talk to whether it’s existing stores, new stores, at demos, new customers is we just use simple natural ingredients in anything that we produce. Even as we get into new skews and new items, we’re going to start with basic, you know, simple, natural, healthy ingredients. And there’s just, to us there’s no need to get any fancy or crazier to make a good product. And that’s just through constant feedback from our customers over the last six years.

WIll: I think we related sort of transparency and integrity in the products that we do make. We see a lot of people like a lot of products on the market using ingredients or making claims that have you know, that are kind of nothing claims like fluff basically. And we’ve always kind of steered away from that because we are in constant contact with our customers. And we don’t want to look someone in the eye and tell them that something is good for them. And that’s not necessarily true or that we only, you know, whatever it is like we decided that whatever we’re doing, we need to be upfront with our customers, be very honest and we have to believe in it. And so the ingredients we use, the recipes we’ve come up with are all things that we firmly believe are the best and the right way to be making and consuming granola and anything that we put out there will be the same. I think that just stems from our roots of getting started in farmers markets and with selling to people that we knew personally that we would never want to create something that wasn’t– that we were not 100% confidence standing behind.

Robyn: That’s great. A lot of bigger businesses, publicly traded corporate businesses, they do a lot of kind of sketchy, non-transparent thing. And something that I feel, you know, we work with a lot of privately held in small businesses and family businesses and transparency is something, that word comes up a lot along with our clients because it’s something that they really stand behind. I think it’s something that really sets this market apart from a publicly traded corporation. So, that’s great. How do you guys encourage the other people in your company to uphold those core values?

WIll: I think it’s, again, just sort of kind of treating them the way that we treat one another. And then I guess, you know, it’s very simple, you learn as a kid, treat others the way you want to be treated. And I tell the guys in our kitchen that, you know, these are the expectations and kind of things that we set for ourselves and the same apply to you and it’s good and bad and we tell them all recipes, for example, all the recipes we came up with. So, if you have an idea for a new recipe, let us know. And we’ll try it out. So, it’s sort of about communicating openly with them and letting them know that their opinion matters and showing them by kind of taking action. And there’s certain things that we now do in our production process and things like that, that came from our employees kind of speaking up about something. Because we’re learning everything as we go. They’re learning everything is they go, they have a different perspective than us. So, we just think it’s very important to kind of hear what they have to say. And kind of just, for me, it’s being just very explicit and letting them know that we want to hear that.

Robyn: That’s great. What’s one characteristic that you guys think every leader should possess or develop?

Nate: Good listening skills. You definitely hear lot of leaders talk about that and you don’t necessarily appreciate it or understand it until you’re in a leadership role. You know, as Will mentioned, even something basic in the kitchen in part of our process of baking the granola, letting one of the guys speak up about a better way to do it. You know, we can sit there all day long say no, no, we’ve been doing this for six years. And, you know, we’ve had X number of sales and we know how to put this granola into a bag. So, you just keep baking it the way that we send to make it. Then to you know, other companies that are getting their first start and figuring out how to get into a grocery store, I love having those conversations with those companies who Steve from East Coast Kombucha, just hearing him think through his whole process of how he starts his business; he made mention something that reminded me of how we got our granola started or how I can execute a better cold call. Or, you know, the listening skill, it’s really easy to say I’m listening to you, but then never actually take any action on what you hear from your employees or your peers. But certainly reinforcing a strong employee culture when you get to engage or act on some of those things and suggestions that you hear from your employees actually shows them that they have invested value in the business as well. But it’s key as a leader to show them that you value their input and their information.

Robyn: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing young leaders, young professionals, young leaders today?

WIll: It’s tough because I think a lot of young people do have a very kind o of self starter mentality and leadership mentality. It seems like leadership is being emphasized a lot more in schools and among young people maybe to a fault sometimes. But I don’t know, what do you think?

Nate: I was gonna say something about the instant gratification in our culture right now, probably mostly perpetuated through social media and the advent of that. But the fact that you cannot start something and become a quote-unquote overnight success you hear about the overnight successes RXBar, you know selling it for $600 million overnight. No, it actually took an enormous amount of blood sweat and tears and effort on those guys part to get to that point. So, it’s really easy to see the absolute rocket successes that sell for $600 million, a few billion dollars or these tech companies that go IPO for you know, $20 million. But nobody, it’s really hard to understand the truth effort and work that goes behind that because you’re only interacting on the social media platforms with what is curated and pushed out to your customers or you know, even just peer to peer. So, the hardest thing for anybody, you know, young leaders trying to come through the system right now is understanding that you have the potential and if you can take that leap of faith and that risk to start something, I think we’re more set up to be able to do that now than ever. We know it through the food business, I know it barely through this drone thing. But the barrier to entry is fairly low, a lot of new startups and new ideas, but you just have to understand you’re gonna have to put in a lot of work and just put your nose to the grindstone. But if you use the tools and everything that you’re being taught in school and in college these days or you know, if you don’t go to college, the resources that are available out there to you; there’s a reason why you can’t be successful.

Robyn: That’s a good point about people see that, like our RXBar. So they see that, you know, they just got sold or whatever, right for that huge amount. But they don’t necessarily see all the work that goes into that before that happens. And I think that’s pretty indicative of small business, in general, is that people think it’s cute or fun or like, let’s do a Small Business Saturday and things like that, don’t get me started on that, small business every day, whatever. But it’s important to really be watching, seeing what people are doing. And if your friends have small businesses or they’re entrepreneurs trying to start something, there is a struggle to it sometimes and you have to be supportive of the community as a whole and understand that, you know, it’s okay to show that you’re struggling. Or that things are hard today because you never know where you’re going to be and just to keep pushing. But I think people don’t really like to do that they like to carry their social media and or things like that and only show you the positive things when businesses ups and downs all the time. And it’s just sort of managing how you react to that kind of stuff. So, how do you guys push through stressful things?

Nate: Go ahead.

WIll: For me, it’s running. It really is something that allows me to escape. And if I don’t want to think about stressful times of work, I can use that time to avoid it. But I can also use that time to process things. So, I’m sure someone could explain why but it just it always seems to kind of help and I’m not sure why. So, I’ll go out for a run feeling overwhelmed by problems and I’ll come back I usually run from work and so I’ll leave my office, go for a run and come back and suddenly I don’t I can’t even figure why I was stressing about something. That just seems to make everything clear and more manageable. And then I guess, aside from that, if I don’t have the opportunity to go exercise, I try to remind myself that we’ve been here before. If there’s a problem we’re having, it’s usually something that we’ve already seen and if it’s not there’s always a way to look at it through a lens of something that we’ve solved in the past. So, I guess those two things help, but you know, it’s not cure all I guess.

Nate: No, exercise is definitely a cleanser and whether you’re into running and it’s a cardio activity, or it’s lifting or even like going back on the horse and riding, just clearing your head and some activity that’s outside of the daily grind. But the endorphin just you know, clearing the shit out of your head. is a real thing. But as Will mention, if you don’t have that outlet and you can’t get through it; one of the things for me, when I find that we’re in a stressful time or a bit of a hole, I’ll go out and I’ll just go to my regular accounts and I’ll just sell a lot of granola. Like I get a little bit I get fired up, you know, for looking at something and say you know what, we’re not making the sales that we need to make right now. We need to get some things going or we want to get these new bags or some more equipment or here but we just don’t have the funds for that right now. I’ll just, I’ll get agitated and say, screw it, I’m going to go hit the road and just go call on 10 new accounts and sell more granola into our accounts that we’re already in. Go interact with more customers or something. And even if it’s just you know, that spurred for two or three weeks, it just reinvigorates you and it gets you excited and gets you going again. But it would be naive to think that there aren’t stressful times in the business. So, figuring out the best outlet to that, short of you know, you know punching a hole through a wall; you definitely need to figure out a more sane way to deal with it.

Robyn: It’s not the best way to deal with things.

WIll: It’s funny you say that about selling because when you were on vacation, was it last week?

Nate: Two weeks ago, yeah.

WIll: Two weeks ago, I took over his accounts when he was on vacation and I was having a bad day and I went and I just went to like, the first five stores we ever got into I went to check on them and get them reorders and like they always need more granola when we’re in there. And I just left like smiling and more pumped up like okay, you know, we’re flying through granola in these markets and I didn’t really connect that, that might just be something other people do. But–

Nate: It’s an outlet.

Robyn: I love talking to my clients. – I know there was in everything but even just a text message, “Hey, how are you? Do you have time to chat and just checking in on what’s going on? It doesn’t even have to be like, okay, how are your sales going this month. It’s just like what’s going on? in your life and because I think it gets me out of my own way.”

Nate: Right, exactly. I was just said we’ve got a ping pong table in the warehouse that we haven’t really used anymore but Will can beat me up on that.

WIll: Yeah, we have a tally of wins and I had a good streak on it.

Nate: I think we played like 35 games, it’s honestly like 29 to six it Will’s favor so I’m not doing well. So, when I’m in the office, if Will’s stress maybe just pull out the ping pong table…kick my ass.

Robyn: What’s your morning routine?

Nate: Row. I mean, I try to it’s been up and down for sure the last several years, just because the schedules late at night or I need to go on the road early to go deliver to stores. Or if I have to go to Boston I’m going to drive either before the rush hour after the rush hour. And generally, I try and go earlier. But if I’m not doing that, I do try and make my best effort to get to the boathouse in the winter, it’s indoor training. So it’s, you know, urging or biking, strength training two to three times a week. But especially when it’s the spring and summer and the sun is up early in the morning and it’s you know, 70 degrees out, you go roll out on the water. And if you’re at the right time, you get down to the Norwalk Harbor, you know, right by the Long Island Sound harbor entrance, and the sun’s coming up there. And to me, there’s no other way I want to start the day and that gets me fired up, to go out and work. Other people saying, “Hell no, I need to be sleeping till 7:00 or 7:30.” I’d rather get up early and go do that.

Robyn: That’s great.

WIll: Yeah, I gave up on the early morning [??? 1:07:49] stop growing. My routine, it’s very regular. I just get up and I eat breakfast, granola every morning for seven years.

Nate: You really don’t have anything else other than a bowl of granola?

WIll: Some cereal, yeah. But even on the weekends, I don’t really like to eat anything else. It’s become, it’s so ingrained in my routine. I could eat half a dozen eggs and I’d be hungry because I haven’t had granola.

Robyn: So, low carb diet, not for you.

WIll: No. I’ve a lot of friends who tell me that I should like ketosis is the way to go. Sorry, no, no. So, I do that and I take coffee to go and I get to work a little before eight. And I usually read the news till about 8:30 and then get started once coffee sort of kicked in, but it’s been my routine for years and I have no interest in changing it I guess.

Robyn: That’s a good routine.

Nate: What’s your routine?

Robyn: So, I’m an eggs person. So normally I get up, my dog likes to sleep in so does my boyfriend. He goes to work early, but I get up earlier than him. I don’t know how that works. But it… So, my dog stays in bed. I get up, I usually make oatmeal, I put granola on it and a banana. And then I’m this kind of person where like 30 minutes later I’m hungry again, that’s just how my body works. So, then I try to eat some eggs and some vegetables. And then usually the dog gets up by then. We go for a walk, and then I usually go to the gym, and they train for about an hour and a half of the morning. And then I’m here.

Nate: I’m a firm believer in getting the exercise out of the way in the morning because at the end of the day, you’re exact opposite. I know you’re able to just go out for a run after a whole day at work, but it doesn’t work for me.

WIll: If I work out in the morning, I will not stop eating for the whole day. It kick starts my metabolism and I will eat for the whole day and I realized at the end that I’ve done more harm, than good because I also like I’ll be like oh I ran five miles this morning. I’ll eat a big like chicken cutlets sandwich or something for lunch. Whereas now, I think I’m planning on working out later but I might not so I should probably eat healthy. So, it just doesn’t work.

Robyn: I used to be a nighttime workout person, and then I just like I couldn’t get enough food in after working out. Because obviously, it’s really when you’re lifting really heavy, it’s important to have good nutrition all the time especially after your workout. And I noticed like I would be here and my hours are crazy. Sometimes I’m here till four but sometimes I’m here to like 8:30 at night, I just never know. So I’d rather get it in the morning so that it’s out of the way, just done with.

Nate: It doesn’t backup.

WIll: It gives me a hard stop at the end of day, sorry, gotta go. [crosstalk]

Robyn: This is kind of a funny question, but how many messages are in your inbox right now?

Nate: Let’s see, I think I have 132.

Robyn: Unread?

Nate: Unread.

Robyn: Wow. Do you leave them on read on purpose?

Nate: I leave them on read because that means I need to go back to it.  There are probably some junk ones in there, but I know people That have like 10,500 because they don’t read emails or they do they only read the important one respond to it right away and that’s it.

WIll: I have 48 which is a lot for me. I try to like my personal inbox, I try to have nothing on read because it’s usually like adults and on personally now so if I get an email and I need to reply try to do it right away or it’s just you know it’s not important. But in work it’s yeah, I’ll read something that will mark as unread because they have to reply but I just don’t have the time. And then we have our sales email account where we have like open orders and stuff which usually has a handful. But I remember the first time I saw the number 40 on my email it was like a weird milestone in my head of being the professional business world.

Nate: Forty?

Will: Yeah, it was like 43 years old–

Robyn: That’s the marker.

Nate: – 40 emails from work. [crosstalk] because with iPhone you have that that 3D Touch where you can preview a message and Imessage or an email, and I’ll do that, I’ll look at it and say okay, I gotta get back to responding to that person. That’s also because like, I don’t really text and drive, you’re not supposed to, [crosstalk] road a lot so I’ll just be like, oh yeah, I’ll respond to that person. So, I even have like 2,500 text messages.

Robyn: I can’t leave them a little notification.

Nate: I hate it.

Will: I reply right away.

Nate: But it’s just sort of…so you have zero unread emails?

Robyn: Well, I’m sure I have unread emails right now because we’ve been in here but I yes, I went through all my emails when they come in. If I don’t respond it’s because I don’t like email, I’m just kidding. But I just write it down. I’m like a physical note taker so I have a to do list on my desk and I just write it down and then the end of the day and I take a picture like if I’m going to work from home or whatever, I take a picture with my phone or bring my notebook with me and the downside is that if I don’t do that, or don’t take me know book, I kind of get somewhere I’m like, no job today. But yes, I check my emails all the time, even like, at 11 o’clock at night. I’m someone that doesn’t shut off so, and my mom is up super early, so she’s always emailing me in the morning. like 5:00-4:30, whatever I’ll answer this. Do you guys have any book or podcast recommendations for young leaders?

Nate: I loved the Elon Musk Biography by Ashlee Vance. And I listened to it only on audiobook. I just I consume a lot of audio in the car and I’m pretty sick of music. That one, I mean, yeah, it’s Elon Musk, everybody knows about him love, we and hate him. But it was just fascinating to hear about his upbringing and how he got to where he is today and his book is only like, up until 2014 I think. So it’s not even super current. I think they just launched the Model S. Tesla. So it’s, you know, they didn’t have all the other cars and all these SpaceX missions completed. But I just thought it was really cool how he started all his businesses and how he thought about it. It’s not even that long group book. So, it’s pretty interesting. And then podcasts I do, I listened to a lot of Joe Rogan experience. It’s not necessarily a business podcast, but he does talk to business leaders and CEOs and entrepreneurs. And those discussions are just as fascinating as discussions with comedians, hunters, you know, PhD doctors, but it’s just because of the wide topics that he covers, you get to consume a lot of information. Not all of it is correct, but you get to go back and you know, talk to a friend about, you know, some discussion that they had on that podcast, and it just has helped me consume a lot of information, pick up little bits of knowledge, and has actually helped me in a weird way try and expand what I know and what I can learn about the business that we’re in. And in a weird way, – gone to some of my problem solving skills of being able to go out and find some of that information online or through podcasts. Like Will listen to more business specific one that I haven’t tapped into yet.

Will: Yeah, so I don’t listen often. But when there’s an episode that piques my interest is an NPR podcast called How I Built This…interviews with people who started successful businesses, and you mentioned RXBar earlier, they had one of the founders of RXBar on there. A good one I heard was founder of Patagonia, Clif Bar, things like that where you get a good sense of different leadership styles, the Patagonia one i thought was actually the most interesting because They’ve had psychologists come to the Patagonia offices to study their employees because they have a very unique work style, where it’s more self-accountable than it’s like known for the self-accountability of the employees. And I think he wrote a book or someone wrote a book about them called, let my people serve where basically, they have a work policy, which is if the surf is good, you can leave work, and they’re obviously a very successful company. So, they figured out a way to let people just walk out of work in the middle of the day to go surf. And it’s sort of like a looted sort of a metaphor for if there’s something worth doing go and do it. And so it doesn’t have to be surfing, it can be whatever you want it to be. And so there’s something about that, that kind of resonated with me. And one of the points he made was, it has to be ingrained in you from day one. So, it’s not a policy you can just sort of enact, it has to be deeply ingrained in your DNA. And it sort of helped me think about what are the things that we, we’re still at a point where I think we can kind of make those decisions and what are the things that we want to kind of instill in ourselves and our employees that are part of our DNA and our core values, like you said, So, how I built this kind of has really good sort of leadership, entrepreneurs stories. And then another one I like, it’s called the Jocko Podcast, which is a, he’s a former Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink, who left and started actually a consulting company so I hope this isn’t competition.

Robyn: No, it’s fine.

Will: They do like corporate leadership consulting from the perspective of Special Forces operators and he talks about his experiences in the Navy SEALs and how a big thing for him is decentralized command and sort of letting giving people the freedom to do tasks and because they’re on the ground and like they know what they’re doing and you have to listen to them. But his kind of general mindset is just about how do you accomplish something, you do it. And it’s almost too simple and you’re like, “Man, you kind of need to give us a little bit.” But he shows so many different successes and he as a book and the name, I’m totally blanking on the name of the book. But he has so many different examples of successes where it’s just as simple as just not over complicated problems. You look at something and instead of worrying about the optics or the politics or sort of hurting someone’s feelings, especially in a corporate setting, it’s just you have to do it, why you have to do it because if you don’t, your competition bone. So he’s, I think he’s very good at putting things bluntly and showing people that you just do the work and if you do it, you’ll be successful. And for me, I like to listen to it and kind of filter it through my own experiences and pick and choose things to listen to that. Again, I think a little bit of it is kind of too simplified, but you can kind of pull things out of there that I think are very useful.

Robyn: Those are great recommendations, and I’m gonna put them on the blog, with links. I think probably, so we read a lot of books here. We love books.

Will: I’m so bad at reading. I tell myself I need to read books, like in my notes on my iPhone of things I need to read and I’ve gotten through very few.

Robyn: I have a bad habit of where I’ll go to like Barnes and Noble or a bookstore and I’m like, I need all these books. And then I don’t have time to read them. So, I do audiobooks too but I own a lot of books.

Will: I think I need to do that. I read from the library, I’ll read half and then I’ll return it. And I think if I own it, the fact that I’m spending money will maybe make me read it more.

Robyn: Maybe.

Will: Do you have good recommendations?

Robyn: I really like so, I actually realized the other day that I don’t do any personal reading, just like for fun reading, yeah, I do a lot of business-related reading. Even when I have time to do my own reading, which is rare, it’s always a business book because why not? And I think probably the one that has stuck with me the most recently is Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. And so, Mike Michalowicz, I’ll put a link in the blog, but he has a couple books but Profit First is about how you as a company should put aside your profit first. So, what happened traditionally, is that you say okay, I need this much revenue so I can have this much cost of goods sold and I get this much gross profit and you work your way from revenue down. And what Mike Michalowicz it says is essentially work backwards. So, how much profit do you want at the end of the day and then work that backwards to Okay, how much is my overhead, which is typically kind of stable and then your cost of goods sold? And then you know, so how much revenue do I need to make to achieve my profit goals? And there’s more, he applies it to personal finances too and how to like, set up your bank accounts differently and things like that. But it really resonated with me to say to my clients, okay, I’m glad you’re achieving this revenue. That’s great. But at the end of the day, what are you really taking home? And so let’s focus on what really matters to you, which is what’s in your pocket. And so we kind of like work with our clients a little bit that way.

And then there’s a story about, there’s a book called The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack. And Jack Stack, I’m going to butcher this probably, but Jack Stack used to work for International Harvester and he ran a factory for them and I guess they were going to close the factory. And Jack Stack was like, “No, we can’t do that we have employees, we can’t just lay off all these people.” So, he brought his whole team together who was running the factory and his employees and said, here’s, the deal. Here’s what’s happening, how do we make this not happen? Or how do we do this on our own and be successful? And that was kind of the book is about how he did that and how he empower his employees to make decision to be take ownership. So I love both those books. I read a lot of books.

Will: It’s funny, back to the work life balance, I tried reading books like business-related books, and I just realized I need reading – so I do more like fiction or history or stuff like that. But I think I do need– I also realize that this at a certain point like, I need some of that knowledge so I’ll check those out.

Robyn: That’s why I switched to audiobooks. So what I was saying was that I’m one of those people, like, I’ll walk into Barnes and Noble and walk out with like, 10, five books. And I almost never read them or I read like, half and then I’m like, okay, that can sit there and I’ll get back to it. But if it’s an audiobook, I can listen to the whole thing in a couple days, you know, couple days, not that my commute is very long, but just at any point, you know, in the morning, instead of turning on the TV, I can listen to my book or–

Nate: A 20 minute chunks you can get through a lot.

Robyn: Yeah. So, that’s all the questions I have.

Nate: It was greatest, very in depth and a lot of fun to discuss it all.

Robyn: Thank you. Thanks for coming on. Where can people find you?

Nate: Well, through our website, KellysFourPlus.com, definitely on social media, Four Plus Granola on Instagram, Kelly’s Four Plus Granola on Facebook. We should definitely streamline those names. And then in the New York metro area, we’re in all the whole foods, Connecticut. We’re in Big Y, stop and shop…. We are finalizing the Find Us page on our website. We’re just trying to revamp that. But you can get us a ton of different independence and natural small grocery stores. But online and Amazon are the two best ways to get us if you don’t live in this immediate area.

Robyn: That’s great. Well, thank you so much.

Nate: Thanks, Robyn.

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With any financial product that you buy, it is important that you know you are getting the best advice from a reputable company as often you will have to provide sensitive information online or over the internet.With any financial product that you buy, it is important that you know you are getting the best advice from a reputable company.

With any financial product that you buy, it is important that you know you are getting the best advice from a reputable company as often you will have to provide sensitive information online or over the internet.

With any financial product that you buy, it is important that you know you are getting the best advice from a reputable company as often you will have to provide sensitive information online or over the internet.With any financial product that you buy, it is important that you know you are getting the best advice from a reputable company.

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